Teresa Buchanan

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If you haven't read about the bizarre and disturbing case of Teresa Buchanan at LSU, here are some links: Colleen Flaherty, "Fired for Being Profane", Inside Higher Ed 9/2/2015; Steve Sanoski, "LSU defends firing of associate professor as faculty senate takes up resolution asking officials to reverse decision", Business Report 9/2/2015; Julia O'Donoghue, "LSU Faculty Senate to decide on censure of King Alexander next month", New Orleans Times-Picayune 9/2/2015; Caitlin Burkes, "Faculty Senate postpones vote on LSU president's censure", The LSU Daily Reveille 9/3/2015; LSU Faculty Senate Resolution 15–15 Regarding the Case of Teresa Buchanan; Catherine Sevcenko, "AAUP Censures Louisiana State Over Buchanan Case, Prompting LSU to Play Dirty", The Torch 9/3/2015; Charles Pierce, "LSU Gets Politically Correct", Esquire 9/4/2015; Ryan Buxton, "Fired LSU Professor Teresa Buchanan Says She Still Doesn't Know What She Did Wrong", Huffington Post, 9/8/2015.

Teresa Buchanan has put up a web site, where you can donate to her legal defense fund via the Louisiana State Conference of the AAUP — unfortunately you can only do so by sending a physical check via paper mail.



  1. Keith said,

    September 8, 2015 @ 10:22 am

    I just read the article at Inside Higher Ed…

    Chancellor F. King Alexander ignored the committee’s recommendation and notified the university’s Board of Supervisors that Buchanan should be dismissed for cause, since she’d committed sexual harassment and therefore violated a federal law.

    How can the aptly named Chancellor push for dismissal on the grounds of having broken a federal law, when Ms Buchanan has not been tried and found guilty of breaking that law?

    It looks to me like the Chancellor believed that the allegations were credible enough, made up his mind to dismiss Ms Buchanan, and now he doesn't want to appear weak by backing down.

  2. Guy said,

    September 8, 2015 @ 1:10 pm

    Is either side talking about the reason why she was banned from a local school district? That seems like potentially the most substantial issue but it's odd that neither side, as far as I can tell, is explaining what led to that.

    [(myl) From what I've seen, relationships between local school districts and university researchers or training program managers are delicate and often fraught. So the reasons for the cited "banning" (perhaps just unwillingness to renew a relationship) may have been many things not involving any significant culpability on Buchanan's side, such as lack of resources, a policy disagreement, or even interpersonal friction. Apparently no particulars were cited in the information available to the faculty committee. As for why neither side is discussing the matter, it's probably because (PR issues aside) it didn't play any essential role in her firing.]

  3. Jerry Friedman said,

    September 8, 2015 @ 1:30 pm

    From the Inside Higher Ed article:

    'The charges against Buchanan are somewhat vague, but The Advocate reported that she occasionally said “Fuck, no” to students, once used a slang term for female genitalia to imply cowardice and joked that the quality of sex with one’s partner wanes over time.'

    There are publications that print "fuck" but not "pussy"? (I assume "pussy" is the word in question. Maybe The Advocate made the first word obvious but not the second, and Colleen Flaherty or Inside Higher Ed didn't want to make the assumption I just make.)

    Keith: Good point.

  4. Eric P Smith said,

    September 8, 2015 @ 2:27 pm

    This seems very like the case of British Nobel Laureate Tim Hunt, who was required to resign in June of this year following careless words about women: see for example the Wikipedia article here. I think many academic employers feel that political correctness demands of them such draconian responses. I'm very interested to see that it can happen to women as well as men.

  5. Guy said,

    September 8, 2015 @ 2:51 pm


    Based on what we know, it does sound like the allegations against Buchanan are ridiculous and stupid, as well as something for proponents of academic freedom to be concerned about, but your comment seems not to be informed by the law. Whether the dismissal of Buchanan was legal depends largely on the contractual relationship between her and the university, and there's no reason why she would have to be convicted of a crime unless that's what the terms of that relationship require. For example, even in non-at-will jobs an employee can't shally be fired for, for example, not showing up to work, and by the same token they can be fired for assaulting a fellow employee by the same standards even absent a criminal conviction.

    Your argument is especially inapposite in the case of sexual harassment, where the behavior of a coworker (to take the typical employment, rather than education context) can often expose the employer to liability even when the coworker's behavior is not tortious (let alone criminal) in its own right. Anti-harassment policies will usually provide for discipline even of isolated incidents even though an isolated incident can basically never constitute legally actionable harassment under federal law (except in the quid pro quo situation). This is because a hostile environment is composed of a large number of incidents in the face of a failure to address those incidents.

    Even when there is a hostile environment, it's only the employer/school that's liable, not the coworkers/peers. For example, if your coworkers are continually making lewd comments and your employer doesn't put a stop to it, it's only your employer that is guilty (of sex discrimination) not your coworkers, (and this "guilt" is typically not of a crime – it only exposes the employer to civil liability) so insisting that the coworkers be "convicted" of a crime that doesn't exist before your employer fires or otherwise disciplines them isn't reasonable, this doesn't change the fact that it is illegal for your employer to turn a blind eye to your harassment.

    That having been said, I'd like to reiterate that it's difficult to see how the conduct complained of here constitutes sexual harassment in any reasonable sense, at least limited to what's being reported, and I'm not supporting the University's decision here.

  6. Sili said,

    September 8, 2015 @ 3:52 pm


    Hunt wasn't required to do anything. He preempted UCL and resigned on his own before they could investigate and pass judgment.

    More importantly he didn't hold tenure at UCL. An honorary position is a whole nother kettle of fucks.

  7. Eric P Smith said,

    September 8, 2015 @ 4:32 pm


    Hunt was told by a senior at UCL to resign immediately or be sacked. (Wikipedia). He was disgraced, and he lost power and honour. Money is not everything.

    I believe that both incumbents were very wrongly treated and I feel very sorry for them both, regardless of the contents of their respective kettles.

  8. Jerry Friedman said,

    September 8, 2015 @ 5:07 pm

    Guy: An employer can certainly fire someone for violating their sexual-harassment policy, but is it reasonable to say someone has violated a Federal law when there's been no trial or confession? Is it legal? Maybe actionable?

    If an employer has a policy of firing people who violate Federal laws, can they use it to justify firing someone who hasn't been tried?

    By the way, you wrote, "For example, even in non-at-will jobs an employee can't shally be fired for, for example, not showing up to work,…" Is "shally" a typo? I can't figure out for what, and I can't figure the sentence out unless "can't" should be "can". But maybe I'm missing some legal terminology.

  9. Guy said,

    September 8, 2015 @ 6:48 pm

    Can't shally is my phone's autocorrect substitution for some typo of "can usually".

    Falsely accusing a person of a crime is defamation per se, but the person doesn't have to be convicted to be able to invoke the truth defense, it's sufficient to convince the jury at the defamation suit that they more likely did it than not to win, which is different from beyond a reasonable doubt. But even that's only crimes, not any time you say someone did something illegal.

    As for legality of firing, most employers in most U.S. jurisdictions can fire you for any reason (except for discrimination based on a protected status), including a completely erroneous reason (falsely thinking you stole from them, for example, or because they don't like you, or because they just don't want to pay your salary anymore). Employees are routinely fired if they steal from the cash register (or are believed to have done so) or get in a physical altercation at work, the employer doesn't need to wait for a conviction, prove they did it, or even have good evidence that it happened. To give another straightforward example, employees who fail drug tests can be fired just for that even if they don't get charged. Academic and union jobs tend to be governed by more complicated contractual relationships, but I doubt there's any clause saying firing someone for doing something illegal has to wait for a conviction, especially in cases where the illegal thing is not a crime. In academic and union jobs usually there's some process in place to protect the employees that applies it's own standards and criteria. It's this process that some are arguing wasn't followed here.

    Again I think it's relevant to point out that as far as federal law (specifically, Title IX) is concerned, it's only the school or employer that is responsible for a hostile environment. If there's a business where whenever a female coworker shows up to work the men all say things like "hey baby bring your tits over here so I can rub my face in them", then the employer can be sued, but the employees can't be. Nonetheless the employees could be said to have "violated the law" in the sense that the employer is liable for their actions through agency principles.

  10. Matt said,

    September 8, 2015 @ 7:49 pm

    There are publications that print "fuck" but not "pussy"?

    There might be more than a one-dimensional scale from printable to unprintable involved. I don't know anything about Inside Higher Ed but it's easy to imagine an editorial policy allowing "curse words" in general but disallowing rexist/racist/etc. slurs.

  11. ryanwc said,

    September 8, 2015 @ 10:09 pm

    >disallowing rexist/racist/etc. slurs.

    Being anti-monarchist myself, I would love to see more colleges disallowing rexist slurs. It'd be a bit of a surprise if the first was the LSU of King Alexander.

  12. Jason said,

    September 8, 2015 @ 10:36 pm


    'That having been said, I'd like to reiterate that it's difficult to see how the conduct complained of here constitutes sexual harassment in any reasonable sense"

    In Social Justice Warrior circles, if a male referred in a lecture to cowardice or a coward using the term "pussy", this is prima facie proof of sexual harrassment, as well as contributing to "rape culture discourse" and "the ongoing body shaming of women over their genitalia". And its zero tolerance for transgressors, they must be fired.

    Reasonableness, in other words has nothing to do with it. The only notable thing is that this scalp is she happens to be a woman, which I imagine is the only reason why her cause has gained any sympathy at all.

  13. GH said,

    September 9, 2015 @ 4:16 am


    There may be people who believe as you say, but do you have any examples of male professors who've been fired simply for using the word "pussy" (in the "coward" sense), and who have not received similar attention and support?

  14. Jerry Friedman said,

    September 9, 2015 @ 9:55 am

    Guy: Thanks for repeating the part about only the employer being liable for sexual harassment, which I indeed didn't get the first time. Thanks also for explaining the cupertino.

    I think Keith's comment and mine were in the context of relations between colleges and their faculty. (As it happens, I teach at a community college—but they're not paying me enough for me to speak for them.) Alexander's comments look like "We're ignoring our procedures because she violated a Federal law." That's what doesn't make sense to me. It's up to the university to decide whether she violated their policies, and whether she exposed them or might expose them to the risk of a suit, but not whether she violated Federal law. Of course, it's not a direct quotation, so maybe it's not quite what he said.

  15. Sybil said,

    September 9, 2015 @ 4:49 pm

    @Guy: the "banning" may refer to this, which is from an article in The Advocate (linked from the Inside Higher Ed article):

    In a letter that day to Buchanan, Damon Andrew, dean of the College of Human Sciences & Education, said “multiple serious concerns” had come to his attention, including “inappropriate statements you made to students, teachers and education administrators,” as well as conflict with Iberville Parish Superintendent Ed Cancienne.

    “This behavior is completely unacceptable and must cease,” Andrew wrote.

    In an interview with The Advocate, Cancienne said he called Andrew because he’d received complaints about Buchanan from a couple of his teachers and felt it was his duty to alert LSU. LSU then asked him to put his concerns in writing, he said.

    “When I think there’s a serious issue, then I have to communicate that to them,” he said.

    Iberville continues to participate in the selective PK-3 Teacher Education Program that Buchanan founded.

    Buchanan said Cancienne had asked repeatedly for her to send teachers to Iberville Parish, but she’d resisted because it’s a relatively low performing district, and her students teachers need to see standout teaching so they know what to do themselves. She said the program got off to a rocky start there, but she denied any unprofessional behavior.

    She said she voluntarily agreed to no longer supervise the LSU student teachers in Iberville after Cancienne called her to complain. She said she thinks Cancienne’s complaints, and LSU’s desire to placate him, had something to do with her firing.

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